Larger chunk of hospital drug spending going toward cancer treatments, study finds

Some hospitals are spending a larger chunk of their budgets on new treatments for cancer and migraines, as well as to prevent white cell depletion in chemotherapy patients, according to STAT

An analysis by Lumere, a research and analytics firm that focuses on hospitals, looked at how 26 hospitals from four health systems across the country spent their drug budgets this year.

The researchers found there was a 199 percent rise in spending on expensive immunotherapies used to treat small cell lung cancer during the first three quarters of 2019 compared to the same period in 2018. Immunotherapies accounted for 1.2 percent of total drug spending during that period, according to STAT

They also found a 90 percent growth in spending for migraine prevention drugs. Most of the spending was on Amgen's Aimovig, which was approved in May 2018. 

There was also a 79 percent increase in spending on treatments for neutropenia, which is an abnormally low white blood cell count. 

From the first quarter of 2018 until the third quarter of 2019. Pfizer's drug Inflectra, which is a biosimilar of Johnson & Johnson's Remicade, a rheumatoid arthritis drug, doubled its share of hospital spending, while spending for J&J's drug shrunk by half. 

The study was limited, however, because it only included a small number of health systems and Lumere did not include the effects rebates may have had on spending, according to STAT

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